by Bruce Mills
Yesterday I taught on Romans 9:14-24, a passage which clearly deals with God’s sovereignty in election. In verse 22, Paul states, “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?” Now, I have dealt with that verse in a previous post on the doctrine of reprobation (2/18/08) so I will not rehash that issue.
However, one issue which we discussed yesterday dealt with God’s sovereignty in relationship to sin. This is a very serious issue in theology, because after all, if we have no answer for the horrendous things which take place around us, we might conclude either that God is impotent and incapable of dealing with such matters, or that He is a mean and vindictive tyrant who enjoys inflicting pain on His subjects.
So why does God permit evil in His creation? Why does He allow such events as a deranged gunman killing 32 students and faculty members on a college campus in Virginia in April 2007? What about mass genocide as has taken place in Bosnia and Rwanda within the past few years? What about radical Islamic terrorists flying commandeered airplanes into towers, killing thousands?
And why didn’t God simply wipe out Lucifer (Satan) at the very beginning when he rebelled? After all, He has the right and power to do that. In fact, Revelation 20:10 says he is will do just that someday. So why didn’t God cast him into the Lake of Fire the day after he rebelled? Why let him rampage through humanity for centuries?
What possible answer does Christianity have for such questions? Using material that I gleaned from both John Piper and John MacArthur, let me see if I can answer that.
The ultimate answer is that “all things have been created through [Christ] and for [Christ]” (Col. 1:16). Clearly God knew all that Satan would do if He created him and permitted him to rebel. So in choosing to create him, God was choosing to fold all of that evil into His purpose for creation. His purpose for creation was the glory of his Son. All things, including Satan and all his followers, were created with this in view. God created them knowing what they would do, and that knowledge was taken into account in God’s decision to create them. Therefore, the evil that Satan and his demonic forces do is simply one aspect of how God’s greatest and perfect purpose will be accomplished.
And in Romans 9:22, we learn that the entrance of sin into the world was necessary so that God could display His wrath, judgment, holy anger, vengeance, and justice. That’s why it says God was “willing to demonstrate His wrath.” His wrath is just as much an attribute of God’s nature as any other of His attributes. And so God allowed sin to enter into His perfect creation in order that He could display His holy wrath, because if there was no sin, He would have had no reason to display His wrath, and without His wrath, the fullness of the glory of God would not have been revealed.
Satan’s fall and ongoing existence are for the glory of Christ. Ultimately, Jesus Christ will be more highly honored, more deeply appreciated, and more deeply loved because He defeats Satan—not the moment Satan fell, but through millennia of enduring him and those who follow him “with much patience”--and decisively through His own death. A single, sudden, and infinitely holy display of power to destroy Satan immediately after his fall would have been a glorious display of power and righteousness. But it would not have been the fullest possible display of the full glory of the Son and the Father. God chose an infinitely wise way of displaying the full magnificence of divine glory by letting Satan fall and do his work for thousands of years.
The glory of Christ reaches its highest point in Christ’s obedient sacrifice on the cross where Jesus triumphed over the devil (Col. 2:15). Jesus said in that final hour of his own sacrifice, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him” (John 13:31). Paul said that the crucifixion of Christ is the point where we see his wisdom and power most gloriously displayed: “But we preach Christ crucified…the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23–24).
Satan, with all the evil and misery he brings to this planet, serves to magnify the power and wisdom and love and grace and mercy and patience and wrath of Jesus Christ. We would not know Christ in the fullness of His glory if He had not defeated Satan in the way He did.
Now, I understand that that’s not an easy answer to accept for many. But that’s the answer God gives us in Romans 9:22. Had there been no Satan and no sin, God couldn’t have displayed His wrath against sin and we wouldn’t have known that aspect of His nature. And because that aspect of His nature wouldn’t have been put on display, the full revelation of God’s glory would have been lost. So God created Satan and allowed and endured sin for the purpose of revealing His holy wrath in its judgment and its punishment. And it had to be so in order for God’s character to be fully revealed.
The text also says, “and to make His power known.” Here is another reason why God created Satan and permitted sin to enter His creation. First of all, He did it so that He could show His wrath. Secondly, He did it so that He could show His power.
How does God show His power in relationship to sin? First of all, in His judgment of sin. The closing chapters of the book of Revelation reveal the power of God in judging sin. If you read them, you will see the devastating plagues that He will one day send on the earth. You will see the great fiery judgments that He will bring upon men. And you will see Jesus Christ return as the conquering Lord, riding on a white horse, carrying a sword, wearing blood splattered garments as He comes to defeat Satan, his demonic forces, and the armies of the world and take the earth for His own possession so He can establish the millennial Kingdom. And after the final rebellion, you will see all of unredeemed humanity collected before the Great White Throne because God has the power to bring them out of the graves so that He can bring them before His judgment bar and then send them into the Lake of Fire forever. That is truly a demonstration of His unlimited power to judge sin.
And so, Satan and sin exist in order that God may fully glorify Himself and His Son, and demonstrate that part of His nature which is holy and reacts in violent wrath against sin and evil. And God created Satan and allowed sin in order that He could demonstrate His tremendous power as well as His vengeance, and His power is seen in its ability to conquer all that attempts to conquer Him.